The Senate Committee on Niger Delta Affairs screened Lauretta Onochie and 14 other nominees for their appointments as chair and members of the board of the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC).
Ms Onochie, currently a special assistant to the president on new media, appeared before the panel on Thursday for the screening process. She and the other nominees were appointed by President Muhammadu Buhari on 23 November.
She was enmeshed in a controversial appointment into the electoral umpire, INEC, in 2020 when she was named a national commissioner to represent Delta State.
The appointment generated public outcry from individuals, civic groups and opposition parties who wrote petitions, staged protests and called on the Senate to reject Ms Onochie’s appointment. Many also described the appointment as unconstitutional – majorly because she is partisan and has openly campaigned for the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC).
She was, however, rejected by the Senate in July. And the basis for her rejection was not her partisanship. The Senate said her appointment was rejected because “it breaches the federal character principle.”
Lawmakers grill nominees
At Thursday’s screening chaired by Gombe senator Bulus Amos, some senators wondered if Ms Onochie’s local government was an oil-producing community.
Seriake Dickson (PDP, Bayelsa West) said her nomination breached the provisions of Section 12(1) of NDDC (Establishment etc.) Act.
He asked Ms Onochie about her local government and whether it is an oil-producing community.
But he was reminded by the Senate chief whip, Orji Kalu (APC, Abia North) that a former NDDC chairman, Onyema Ugochukwu, was appointed from a community that does not produce oil in Abia State.
“We need to be more guided. We have appointed a chairman from our state that is not from the local government where they produce oil, Chief Onyema Ugochukwu, and nobody can tell us to reject this one,” he said.
While Ekiti senator Opeyemi Bamidele, who supported Ms Onochie’s appointment, said she is qualified for the position, Delta senator James Manager said a petition was written against her nomination.
He, however, assured that the committee would look at the petition written by the concerned group from the Niger Delta region.
“This is one nominee we rejected on the floor of the Senate. We rarely reject nominees from the president but this was done,” Mr Manager said. “Now this person is here again before the Senate. I want the public to know that this one is an isolated case. In an executive session we will discuss it. We will look at the petitions.”
On her part, Ms Onochie promised that the board will work as a team for the development of the oil producing region.
She said being an indigene of a community that produces agricultural products, they will “work on bringing food to the table of Nigerians.”
“Since the announcement of my nomination I have received thousands of applications from our young people wanting to be personal assistants because that is all they know,” she said. “We are going to show them that there is more to life than being a personal assistant. We are going to show them how to be properly empowered so that our region can start booming like all the other regions.”
Meanwhile three senators from Ondo State have rejected the nomination of Charles Ogunmola who was appointed Executive Director, Projects for the board.
The senators are Ajayi Boroffice (Ondo North); Ayo Akinyelure (Ondo South) and Nicholas Tofowomo (Ondo South).
PREMIUM TIMES reported that the senators sought his rejection on grounds that he is not from an oil-producing community.
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